The second Saturday of this boutique Keeneland Spring meet is upon us, and a stellar card is highlighted by the G1-Jenny Wiley Stakes. The Turf Pick 3 rages on with aplomb and contains a scramble of a 14-horse turf sprint stakes as the second leg.
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- Leg 1 (R5): 5-6-4-2
- Leg 2 (R8): 5-11-2-3
- Leg 3 (R10): 3-4-5-6
Leg 1 (3:08pm): Keeneland Race 5 – AllowanceN1X 110k Purse
A promising group of three-year-old turf runners look to springboard their campaigns towards future stakes success with this expensive Keeneland allowance race. I think the morning line favorite Limited Liability (#6) is squarely the horse to beat returning in this spot for Shug McGaughey. His debut win at Saratoga featured an impressive sweep around the turn made him look like he was headed towards being one of the main players in the juvenile turf division. Unfortunately, the race shape did not set up for him in either of his next two starts in stakes company to finish off the year, so I think it belittles some of the underlying talent he possesses. The layoff is a question mark though and I wouldn’t want to take him at anything shorter than the 3-1 ML which is why I landed on Play Action Pass (#5) as my top pick. I’m hoping the dirtied-up form and somewhat under-the-radar connections prevent him from being among the shorter prices. On raw talent I think he stacks up favorably. After breaking his maiden in his turf debut he had two things working against him in both of his subsequent turf stakes tries. The first of which was that there was both races featured an honest pace that he was very much a part of and the second is that he was facing Tiz the Bomb who is among the best turf horses of this crop. I’m not sure why they tried two dirt allowances, but he’s back on the right surface today and get be forwardly placed in a race where the majority of the major contenders like to come from off of it. I’m sure the betting public will go overboard on Credit Event (#4) and Merci (#7) who are fresh off maiden scores for high profile connections. However, Credit Event’s debut win came on the synthetic and Chad Brown is 0/19 with horses going synthetic to turf when their odds are greater than even money. Merci goes out for Christophe Clement, but the field he beat at Tampa last time leaves plenty to be desired and my top two picks have been battle tested against stakes company.
Leg 2 (4:44pm): Keeneland Race 8 – Giant’s Causeway Stakes 400k Purse
I foresee a high percentage of the wagering dollars to flow through the three shortest prices on the morning line in this edition of the Giant’s Causeway Stakes. Of them, I am least interested in Elle Z (#12). While this Chris Hartman runner possesses significant early speed and can likely get to the front, she’s never quite been capable of producing her top efforts outside of the Fair Grounds. Campanelle (Ire) (#3) arguably has the most natural talent of any runner in the field, but I wonder if this is merely a means to an end as Wesley Ward has stated publicly that the main goal is to have a peak effort at Royal Ascot this summer with the goal of making it three straight years with a victory there for her. Since I’m none too fond of taking a short price on a horse prepping in a 14-horse turf sprint, I landed on the other logical contender Change of Control (#5) as my top selection. She has a versatile running style that is well-suited to a scramble of a race like this one and it’s proven that she admires the Keeneland sod. In her last start, she lost all chance at the start and I feel is likely to turn the tables on the two rivals that finished ahead of her that day. One of those is Goin’ Good (#11) who really took a step forward in her first start as a four-year-old for Brad Cox. When horses get goin’ good for that barn, they usually stay that way and I see her as the most likely winner outside the three favorites. However, if I fancy the chances of that rival, I am obligated to include Star Devine (Ire) (#2) who is listed at a ridiculous 30-1 on the morning line. She needs to take a step forward from her races as a three-year-old and this is not the easiest spot to return off the layoff, but both of her two turf wins were impressive efforts with less-than-ideal trips. The field she beat in the Galway at Saratoga has proven to be a strong one and if she can build on that effort, she’s in with a major upset chance.
Leg 3 (5:48pm): Keeneland Race 10 – G1-Jenny Wiley Stakes 500k Purse
The Jenny Wiley is a major early season prize for turf fillies and mares with recent winners like Rushing Fall, Sistercharlie (Ire), and Tepin going on to major success in their respective campaigns. However, this rendition of the race is not the most intriguing betting affair. It features a matchup between two Chad Brown entrants that both have significant merits that the other four runners in the field come nowhere close to matching. I gave the slight edge to Shantisara (GB) (#3) who looks poised for a big year. Her win in the G1-QEII Cup last fall was a sublime performance as she rolled home to a five-length win over a quality field. It remains to be seen what she’s going to produce when up against as formidable a rival as she faces today, but I foresee her being up to the challenge. That rival comes in the form of Regal Glory (#4) who holds a recency and tactical edge over her younger stablemate. While she has the feather in her cap of being able to adapt to various running styles based on what the race shape dictates, her upside is limited at this stage in her career. I ultimately couldn’t come up with a good enough reason to split the two favorites from a wagering perspective and am treating the race as a free square by using both equally while trying to link them up with my price opinions earlier in the sequence.